In the football scene, the filmmakers actually tried to have the catapult shuttle kick the football off. Unfortunately, the shuttle completely obliterated the ball, forcing a Navy Master Chief to just chuck the ball in the air for the desired shot.
The film is based loosely on the experiences of U.S. Air Force Captain Scott O'Grady, who was shot down near the town of Mrkonjic Grad in northern Bosnia in June 1995, and was stranded in Serb-held territory for six days before being rescued by U.S. Marines. O'Grady brought a lawsuit against Twentieth Century Fox for damages to his character. He claims he didn't curse as much and never disobeyed orders.
In the initial flyby scene of the aircraft carrier, the deck crew can be seen standing in a long line across the deck. This is part of the beginning of flight operations as they search for any objects lying around on the flight deck (screws, bolts, trash, et cetera) that could be sucked into the aircraft's intake during take-off.
The SAM missile system shown in the film is the 9K35 Strela-10 firing the 9M37M missile. It uses an electro-optical guidance, laser proximity fusing and triple channel guidance system. However, its range is only 5 kilometers (3.1 miles), and it can only intercept up to 3,500 meters (10,600 feet).
None of the actors playing Serbians were actually Serbian; the producers said that they hired Croats as interns and instructors to teach the actors the Serbian language, because they couldn't find any Serbs willing to work on the film due to perceived anti-Serb sentiment shown in the film. Vladimir Mashkov, who played the Serbian sniper Sasha, is Russian, and Olek Krupa, who played the Serbian General Miroslav Lokar, is Polish. Some Slovaks also participated in the film, such as Marko Igonda, who played Colonel Bazda, and Kamil Kollarik, who played a guerrilla who aids Burnett in Hac.
In response to Lieutenant Burnett's (Owen Wilson's) request to leave the Navy, Admiral Reigart (Gene Hackman) asks him what he's going to do. "Are you gonna fly commercial jets? Troll the friendly skies in a bus?" "Fly the friendly skies" is a slogan of United Airlines; in the 1990s, Gene Hackman was the principal voice-over artist for United Airlines commercials.
According to the beginning of the movie, the "Cincinnati Accords" ended the war in Bosnia. This treaty is loosely based on the real-life Dayton Agreement that ended the war in late 1995. Ironically, the "Cincinnati Accords" required N.A.T.O. forces to withdraw from Bosnia, while the real-life Dayton Agreement allowed a large N.A.T.O. force to be sent to Bosnia to help ensure the peace deal.
As Master Chief O'Malley (David Keith) leads Lieutenant Burnett (Owen Wilson) to see Admiral Reigart (Gene Hackman), Burnett asks him if he caught the University of Tennessee's football game the previous Saturday. O'Malley replied, "I don't know anything, Lieutenant." Keith graduated from the University of Tennessee.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Despite filming it as an R-rated action film, John Moore was asked by the studio to cut the film down to a much more financially viable PG-13. On the home video releases of the film, the extended versions of notably more violent sequences are included as deleted scenes. These scenes include: -A more gratuitous version of the mass grave included shots of severed heads, grisly images of dead women and children as well. -A much bloodier version of Stackhouse's execution. -A more prolonged fight between The Tracker and Burnett resulting in blood spraying and a much longer death as he is stabbed with the flare. The ensuing ending sequence also features much bloodier deaths of various soliders.